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Norfolk to Bermuda

May 26 Through June 3, 2000



Captain David Appleton

Mate/Safety Bobby Ward

Student Navigator Lesley Ward

Student Engineer Michael Fagen

Student Boatswain Jimmy Barnes


Our first voyage out to Bermuda this year provided opportunities to examine weather systems and reports to maximize safety and efficiency in making ocean passages.  Multiple lows developing off Cape Hatteras and inland over North and South Carolina required careful consideration.


For this Norfolk to Bermuda cruise we were on s/v GRA’INNE (named for a notorious Female Irish Pirate of the 18th Century), a nicely equipped Island Packet 350 owned by Bobby and Lesley Ward, who were aboard for the round trip.  Our companion boat on the voyage was s/v HALIMEDA.


Joining us for this voyage were Michael Fagen, an attorney from the Cleveland Ohio area and graduate of several Maryland School classes including the DelMarVa cruise, and Dr. Jimmie Barnes of Milton, FL, an Island Packet 29 owner who was taking his first class with us.


Sunday, May 28, 2000


We spend most of the day in port contemplating weather reports and debating whether to go or not.  This gave us a great opportunity to discuss weather and routing around it.  Dealing with Cape Hatteras and the lows that have been marching off Carolina’s coast is not to be taken lightly.


But after considerable thought and discussion of various scenarios with the HALIMEDA crew, at 1300 we elect to leave.  Weather patterns indicate a “now or next Tuesday” scenario as we see it.  So we elect to leave by 1430 and sneak out behind the low that is currently moving up the coast toward the Northeast.  We hope to get in behind it.


Off the dock by 1436, we made our way out to Cape Henry and CBJ by 1700 with cloudy but relatively moderately windy skies.

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Monday, May 29, 2000


At Midnight and again at 0530 we copy NMN Weather reports which promise us winds of 35 knots and more out of the NE as we enter the Gulf Stream.  This is not a welcome piece of information.  We plan to monitor the weather closely, but so far we have nothing serious to deal with.  During the night we went through some rain and gusts to 28+ in squalls, but this is not too bad and GRA’INNE and crew handled the wind, seas and precipitation well.  The crew even enjoyed the opportunity to see something of a stormy sea.


At 1600 we make radio contact with HALIMEDA and learn they are pinned down at the dock with 50+ knots in Norfolk.  They will not be able to leave until Tuesday as we expected.  We are glad to be underway and in the Gulf Stream and on our way..  The HALIMEDA crew gets our position and tells us we are very close to a new low forming off Cape Hatteras........ perhaps near its center.


Glad turned to sad as we copied the NMN 1800 weather report which confirms HALIMEDA’s observations and predicts 45knots out of the NE in the Gulf Stream tonight.........  We’re about to get our butt kicked!!!  Strong winds out of the NE opposing the GS current means extremely rough conditions.... steep waves, perhaps breaking, to 18 to 24 feet.


We are not pleased, but resolve to face the situation as best we can and learn from it.  We strip all we can from topside, double lash everything, secure all loose gear below, make a hot stew dinner, and set the storm trisail.  I tell the crew this should be an interesting experience, not fun, but interesting.  We have confidence in GRA’INNE.  She’s a stout craft and handles the seas well.  And we’ve prepared ourselves and our vessel and fully expect to weather this one in good order.


Through the night the seas remain confused, slapping us about in annoying irregular rocking/pitching motions, making sleep near impossible.  But the big winds never come.... and I found myself even wishing they would!  At least strong winds would make the seas more regular, albeit rough, and the wind in the storm trisail would stabilize the boat.



Tuesday, May 30, 2000


Nothing!  Ready to sail Hell’s own moat, but Nothing!  Our own observations of cloud patterns indicate a low somewhere... but winds have remained relatively light and variable.....S to variable to E to SE ....  Apparently we are in the middle of the low in its lightest winds.  We are oddly disappointed.


At 0600 it becomes clear we need not be rigged for heavy weather, so we douse the storm trisail and reset the main, stay sail and genoa.  The threat seems to have passed so we continue on our way, thankfully unmolested.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2000


At 0800 we contact HALIMEDA via SSB.  They are just getting underway and heading for Thimble Shoals tunnel channel.  Wow, it must have been a corker back in Norfolk.


After cleanup at 0900 we are able to work celestial navigation exercises; we discuss and practice taking sun shots and plan to make a sun-run-sun running fix for the day.


At 1200 NMN weather reports 2 lows.  One is to our north moving ENE at 35 knots, and the other is south of us.  This one we actually attempt to court, to catch up to it and benefit from the NE winds it will offer.  But it moves away quickly.


During the afternoon we notice our VHF antenna at the masthead has wobbled loose and is in danger of being thrown off...... nothing to be done.  The seas are not terrible but far too lumpy for a mid ocean pole climbing exercise.


Thursday, June 1, 2000


Jim got a good sun shot at 0630 and resolves to do another sun running fix today.


We set the genniker at 0700 and the crew got some practice getting it out and up.  At 0720 we’re off and running under genniker.  Yahoo!


At 0800 we attempt to raise HALIMEDA on SSB but fail.  In the attempt we are heard by RISKY BUSINESS, an IP 420 with the “Bermuda High” rally heading back to the Chesapeake.  Bobby has a chat with Ed of Gratitude Yachting Center.  We try to contact Eric Peterson on ISLAND TIME with the same rally, but can’t raise him.


At 0900 Bobby attempts to adjust the genniker halyard under load and gets a substantial rope burn on his hand.  WEAR GLOVES.


By 0930 the winds start to build and ominous clouds seem harbingers of more wind so we douse and stow the genniker.

At 1130 Jimmy gets another sun shot to complete his running fix.  But at noon and at LAN the clouds preclude the possibility of a traditional noon latitude and fix.


At 1600 we meet with HALIMEDA on SSB.  They are at 35/10x72/33; we’re at 33/06 x 68/50.  They report fair weather and good sailing.  After the wait, they deserve it!!!


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Friday June 2, 2000


This is the day of the genniker!  Beautiful skies with just enough cumulus clouds to indicate consistent winds.  They were steady SW to WSW from 12 to 18 so we hoisted her early and flew her all day.  As the winds reached the upper ranges of the day’s offerings, we had some exhilarating sailing.  Also, relatively clear skies gave us the chance to make a couple of good celestial fixes to make sure we were on course for our final approach to the island.


At LAN we are able to get a noon shot and good latitude LOP.


At night the main feature enabling navigators to find the island is the glow from the lights of Hamilton, and the Gibbs Hill Light which is visible from some 26 miles out.  So we really have a target that’s about 50 nautical miles wide, and hard to miss.


Our fix shows us to be right on course for getting first sight of the island sometime in the wee hours of Saturday morning.


Saturday, June 3, 2000


Arrival Day!  During the night we were able to see the glow of Bermuda on the horizon, just to our southeast where it was supposed to appear!  And Jimmie bobs the Gibbs Hill Light at about 0230 which indicates we are about 30 miles out from it.  This technique, giving our bearing as well, provides a decent fix, with both distance off and bearing, yielding essentially two lines of position.


At 0824 we enter St. George's Harbor through Town Cut and head for customs.  Once we clear customs, we move quickly to the duty free fuel fest held each Saturday in St.George...... we take on 28 gallons of fuel.  We motored 70 hours total for the whole trip, averaging 2000 rpm which yields a gph consumption of .5.  Not bad!


Captain David Appleton, aboard s/v GRA’INNE

St. George’s Harbor, Bermuda, June 4, 2000

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